Tuesday, February 16, 2010

10th Annual Bald Eagle Festival at Blackwater Wildlife Refuge

Ten years ago, the folks over at the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in association with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began celebrating the sanctuary’s birthday by hosting what has become their most popular event: The Annual Eagle Festival. This years’ festival will be taking place on Saturday, March 13th so bird-watchers, mark your calendars!

While the yearly celebration honoring the well known birds of prey is a fairly new occurrence, the refuge has been observing and protecting a variety of feathered friends, namely migratory water fowl and smaller birds, since 1933. In fact, Blackwater Wildlife Refuge was primarily established as a waterfowl sanctuary for birds migrating along the Atlantic Flyway and their initiatives to protect and enhance the eagles’ habitat is one of many focuses undertaken by the refuge as more and more native species become threatened or endangered.

“The Chesapeake Bay area has always been a big spot, a heavy concentration for eagles,” commented Tom Miller, a Ranger who works with Visitor Services at the sanctuary. “But they are slow reproducers. Only one of two babies a year. They need to put a lot of time and effort into their offspring. We haven’t had to do a whole lot of active management, [rather] just protecting areas and buying land and their numbers increased.”

Protecting their nests has certainly made a difference though. Staff, volunteers, supporters and visitors of the refuge have much to celebrate since the Department of the Interior officially removed the American Bald Eagle from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants in the summer of 2007. Of course in some parts of the country, the eagles are still not at the desired numbers, but on the grounds and wetlands of the refuge, the bald eagle is considered a recovering species alongside once endangered Delmarva fox squirrel and the delisted peregrine falcon.

The refuge is currently home to more than 250 bird species and encompasses more than 25,000 acres along Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Visitors are certain to see a variety of wildlife and likely to witness an eagle catching fish out of the water, stealing a fish from fellow dwellers the osprey, snatching smaller birds in flight, or even dining on a deer perishing on the side of the road. “Eagles,” as Tom Miller puts it, “Are opportunistic eaters.”

So what else can festival attendees expect to see at the 9th Annual Eagle Festival this March? Birds, birds and birds of prey!

Experts will give educational talks alongside a live eagle, falcon, or other feathered friends hourly. Visitors are encouraged to arrive in the morning for observational bird walks and stick around throughout the day to hear Native American musician Ron Warren playing traditional Native American flutes. Food, live bird exhibits, and wildlife exhibits will be available all day, from 8:00am – 4:00pm. Kids can plan on constructing their very own bird box and watching a puppet show. Details, directions, visitor information, and the full schedule for festival day can be found on the Blackwater Wildlife Refuge website.

And if you’re anxious to see one of the majestic birds in one of their authentic nests before the festival, check out the Live Eagle Cam or visit the refuge any day between dawn and dusk for a walk or bike ride along one of Blackwater’s four land trails, a drive along Wildlife Drive, or even a paddle on one of the three water trails.

Visitor Information:
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge
2145 Key Wallace Drive
Cambridge, Maryland 21613
Telephone: (410)228-2677

Admission fees:
Private Vehicle: $3.00
Pedestrian/ Bicyclist: $1.00
Commercial Van/Bus up to 20 passengers: $15
Commercial Van/ Bus 21 passengers or more: $25


Amy said...

thanks for this!! now, in the future, is there a "button" for me to share/email posts to those i think it might interest?

Anonymous said...

nice post. thanks.